From Confucius, Plato to Sir Thomas More and the more recent Utopian Socialists, harmony remained a core value or quality of an ideal society.
Their discussions about harmony have carried the "utopian" label because they were more or less limited to philosophers' fancies or game of words.
But for today's Communist Party of China (CPC), harmony is something not only indispensable, but also achievable in the process of nation-building. General Secretary Hu Jintao's report yesterday to the 17th National Congress of the CPC confirmed that harmony has assumed an overriding position in the Party's governance philosophy, and is certain to dictate its political orientation in the foreseeable future.
There were a multitude of proposals in the report worth chewing upon. The pledge to continue to push ahead with reform and opening-up. Elaboration of the "scientific perspective on development". Priorities in accomplishing an "all-round well-off society". The Party's understanding of democracy, inside the Party and beyond.
But the thread behind and through them all is an aspiration for harmony. Such concern was actually omni-present throughout Hu's two-hour-and-a-half report. The mention of development was preceded by the adjective "coordinated", which belies the subtle change that the CPC is no longer after growth for growth's sake. Development is now put into a humanitarian context - the core of the scientific perspective on development, as Hu explained, is to put people first. The report featured very specific ways to make sure the fruit of development is shared by all.
The Party's pledge to promote democracy and facilitate popular participation contains some new elements that may yield far-reaching impacts on the way public affairs are managed in the country. More closely engaging the public will surely cement the Party's relationship with society.
The CPC's appeal for harmony is not for home consumption only. Hu's report was in a sense an official Chinese invitation for the world to work for and benefit from harmony. It was at the same time a Chinese declaration that we will be a world power of a new kind - one that is more open, and more amicable.
As the report observed, China and the world are depending on each other more than ever. Harmonious ties are in the best interests of both.
(China Daily 10/16/2007 page9)